Classicide is the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of a social class through persecution and violence. The term "classicide" was termed by sociologist Michael Mann as a term that is similar but distinct from the term genocide. Examples includes Joseph Stalin's mass killing of the affluent middle-class peasant Kulaks who were identified as "class enemies" by the Soviet Union. Similar classicide has been committed by China during the Great Leap Forward, by North Vietnam as part of the Land Reform, and by the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia.
Classicide is a term first used by Frederick Schwarz in his book The Three Faces of Revolution. It was used later by Micheal Mann as a well defined term. Classicide has since been used by sociologists to describe the unique forms of genocide that pertains to the annihilation of a class through murder or displacement and the destruction of the upper class to form an equal working class.
In 1929, at the beginning of his dictatorship, Joseph Stalin demanded the "liquidation of kulak's as a class". The Kulaks were peasants who were deemed "wealthy" by Stalin in 1929. The idea for dekulakization first arose in 1918 from Vladamir Lenin, who claimed that the Kulak's were "freeloaders". The oppression of kulaks didn't end until 1932, throughout this time Kulak's were being evicted from their homes, having their land confiscated, shot, imprisoned, deported, or being sent to local work camps. Although the term classicide was never formally used to describe Stalin's destruction of the kulaks, Stalin did say that they had "... gone over from a policy of limiting the exploiting tendencies of the kulak to a policy of eliminating the kulaks as a class."
In 1947, during the Chinese Civil War, three years before the People's Republic of China, Mao Zedong won the hearts of the Communist Party and the peasant class by introducing a new land reform. This land reform encouraged the mass murder of landlords and well-off peasants in order to redistribute the land to the peasant class and other landless workers. The idea of killing landlords was first outlined by Kang Sheng, expert in terror tactics, in 1947. The reform was an open door for violence when Mao insisted that the peasants themselves should do the killing. Landlords were tortured. They were dismembered, buried alive, strangled, shot, etc. There is no way to know exactly how many people were killed but the numbers range anywhere from one million to 28 million.
In 1969 in the midst of the Vietnam war, President Nixon staged massive attacks on Cambodian soil due to his beliefs that there were communist base camps as well as supplies and infantry hidden in Cambodia by the Viet Cong. Nixon also believed the Viet Cong enemy was bombing US soldiers from bases established in Cambodia as well. Cambodia’s then-president Lon Nol was initially unaware and did not address any of the Nixon bombings so they lasted from 1969-1975.
Victims of the US attacks saw the American enemy as rich, upper-class and viewed Lon Nol as possessed the same characteristics as Nixon—rich and powerful. Pol Pot recognized the fear and hatred the people of Cambodia had towards the upper class and used this hostile environment as a tactic to gain control over the lower and upper classes which brought the Khmer Rouge reign his control.
To enforce his control over the regime, he would need to cleanse the country of anyone who fit the description of 'upper class’, and also the ‘Khmer minority’ who shared cultures with the former leader, Nol. Supporters of Nol were primarily rich, upper-class elite. Therefore, Pol Pot targeted these individuals. Anyone who was educated including doctors, lawyers, and teachers were murdered. Following the bombings, by Americans, Pol Pot persuaded victims of the bombings to join the Khmer Rouge by playing on their fearful state of mind. Anyone who would not cooperate was simply murdered.
Pol Pot’s actions eventually led to displacement and created refugees. He soon abolished civil and political liberties which allowed his policies for genocide to be permissible and remained unchecked. Although the majority of the Khmer population massacred were mostly Vietnamese immigrants and Cham minority, over 2 million Khmer natives were still murdered. Children were ripped from their families and their parents were killed in cold blood, soldiers and foreign language speakers were not excluded in the killings either. Pol Pot continued his raids by attacking border towns of Vietnam, which eventually ended his reign. Many natives of Cambodia believed that if it weren’t for the Vietnamese army fighting back, the killings would have lasted longer.
Ho Chi Minh, the former leader of North Vietnam, instituted land reform in the 1950s to redistribute land from the holdings of landlords to the peasantry. The landlords in North Vietnam became targets of smear campaigns by the government, in hopes that the peasantry would revolt against the upper class. Stories of rape, murder, and exploitation of the peasantry by landlords were told to gain the lower classes's support. The government purged landlords as a class. They were executed by firing squads, stoning, and starvation with some being put into reeducation programs. The number of landlords killed during the years of the land reform, range from 5,000 to 50,000. While the term classicide hasn't been used to distinguish the event, the term "class genocide" appears in Micheal Lind's book, Vietnam: The Necessary War.
During the Guatemalan Civil War, the military committed widespread atrocities against the Maya population and rural peasants. Villages were razed, people were subjected to forced disappearances, and over 200,000 people were killed in the war, which lasted from 1960 until 1996. Over 80% of those killed in the war were civilians and peasants of indigenous Mayan background.